Eight Decades (and More)

Eight Decades (and More)

by Oliver R. Bishop


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Oliver Bishop presents a lighthearted romp through 80 plus years in the life of a son of the soil, from the gritty depression years to the present, to include the bucolic farm and ranch years, the competitive military years, to include a tour of Missile Combat Crew Commander.

Then to the demanding City Manager years, the political State official years, and his serene retirement years. The book is rife with little vignettes that flavor a life. As he says, "It covers many fields: corn fields, wheat fields, and hay fields."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477257258
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Pages: 206
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)

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EIGHT DECADES (and more)

By Oliver R. Bishop


Copyright © 2012 Oliver R. Bishop
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-5725-8

Chapter One


AS WITH ALL countdowns there is a confirmation that all logistics problems have been satisfied, which includes everything from paperwork to fuel. The countdown must compare all related data for anomalies. The mission will abort if all requirements are not in place. In this instance there was an assembling of the gene pool to properly configure the missile.

Logistics Assembled

The logistics of getting a payload of eight pounds, eight ounces into orbit requires much early preparation. The Bishop component of the payload originated in Scotland and Ireland, and came to America during the potato famine in Ireland. The Bishops first settled in Illinois, they later moved to Missouri where my father, Oliver Harrison, was born. They then moved to Oklahoma, to try to scratch out a living from the red soil around the "East Bend of the South Canadian River." Their original intention in going to Oklahoma was to participate in the land rush of the "Oklahoma Strip" run, but they arrived too late. They later moved to Kansas in 1907. The inside joke of later years was that Father and Mother came to Kansas the same year. 1907 is the year that Mother was born.

The Gharsts, my father's mother's family, were first generation German and were farming in the small community of Potwin, east of El Dorado, Kansas. It was here that my grandfather met and married the oldest daughter, Sarah. Several genealogical searches of that branch of the family have proven that there are still a lot of Gharsts out there.

My mother's father, Oscar Garabrandt, had come from Ohio as an orphan and married into the land-rich Rodwell family. It was long suspected that Oscar may have been an orphan or an "Orphan Train" child, which was simply an unwanted child of a poor family sent West on a train from New York or another large city to be adopted by a family in need of an extra pair of hands to help farm the land. My grandfather arrived in Kansas with little more than the clothes on his back. He was just old enough to leave his adoptive family and strike out on his own.

He was always very close-mouthed about his past, and many attempts to trace his name and background through genealogical records have been unsuccessful. One source shows that he was little more than an unpaid employee of his adoptive family.

The Rodwells, my maternal grandmother's family, were a part of the landed gentry in England and had made their way to America to buy land. They first went to Wisconsin, then to California, where Jonathan Rodwell left the family to hunt for gold. The rest of the family came to Kansas and purchased a large farm.

That family was headed by the matriarch, Sarah Rodwell. The husband never returned to the home. There were many fanciful tales that he had been murdered for his gold mine. Letters came from a person who had supposedly buried him, and attested to the fact that Jonathan had struck it rich. The children prospered, however, and the first son, David, married a Graham. Juliette (Graham) Rodwell died in childbirth. Sarah raised the daughter, Daisy Bell, who was to become my grandmother.

Daisy had an early childhood accident falling from a ladder. Her back was injured and became severely misshapen as she grew older. It was to her that Oscar Garabrandt was married. The marriage was probably an arrangement-a penniless Dutchman, to a daughter who was no catch physically, but potentially land rich. They each got something from the deal. Among the things that they obtained were three children: Hazel May, Kenneth, and Helen Elizabeth. Hazel, my mother, was the first born.

When poking about in the dusty archives of my family history, I had hoped to find some villains or heroes that would make my search worthwhile. The closest to some interesting stuff that I found was my great-grandfather was murdered for his gold mine, my father's father supplying "firewater" to the Indians in Oklahoma for cash, and his allegedly having given one of the James gang a ride, for which he was awarded a $5.00 gold piece, which was big money to him.

There was a drummer boy, Samuel Pickerill, Jr., a third great grandfather who was in the Revolutionary War, thus, authorizing my daughters to be members of the DAR. That honor, however, seems not to be as treasured as it once was.

Telemetry Established

My father was a day laborer with a threshing crew when he first saw my mother. She was bringing water to the men in the fields. Father allegedly made the remark to his buddies that he was going to marry that girl. Their next encounter was on a country road. Mother was returning home from school with school-mates. She was in the eighth grade. Father was driving a team and wagon with a load of hay. He bantered with her, calling her cute names, and did little more than embarrass her.

About a week later he arrived at my grandmother's house at milking time. He introduced himself to Grandmother, helped finish the milking, and then asked if he could come calling on her daughter. My grandmother was a bit concerned about the age difference, but my father could be very charming when he had to be.

It didn't take too many trips to the movies before talk of marriage became serious. Mother had graduated from the eighth grade, but there were no prospects of high school, and she did not wish to spend any more time at home working as a hired hand without any compensation. To avoid all of the talk they drove to Eureka, the County seat of the next County, and were married on December 18, 1923. Mother was sixteen and Father was thirty-one.

Minus 10 (9 months??) and Counting

Mother and Father put off having children for two reasons. The first was simply to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the marriage was not a "shotgun" wedding, and the second was that Mother did not want children so young. Perhaps another reason was that they were not very well off financially. Father continued to be a day laborer and they were living part of the time with Father's parents.

In fact, Father continued to be somewhat of a gypsy during his entire life. He was always ready to move "at the drop of a hat." Mother always had the deep seated feeling of wanting roots and permanence. She would always cry when Father would announce another move. I suppose I inherited my desire for a stable home life from my mother.

In the normal course of events, Mother became pregnant. The pregnancy was normal, but my size caused some very traumatic birthing problems involving forceps and a complicated labor. At last I arrived, eight pounds, eight ounces, at 4:45 p.m., Wednesday, December 5, 1928.

Henry Ford introduced his Model A Ford in 1928. Oliver and Hazel Bishop introduced Richard, an entirely different model-countdown complete.

It might be appropriate here to indicate who "Richard" is. I was named Oliver after my father, with Richard as my middle name, because mother liked the name. Though my first name is Oliver, I was never called that at home, nor was I called Junior. I was never "Ollie", nor "Dick" at home. Mother abhorred that diminutive of Richard. Actually, to my parents I was Sonny, or Sonny Richard, until I left home.

At school I was Richard, which caused a minimum of confusion, but when I entered the work-a-day world it became Dick. In the military it was Bishop. Back again to civilian life, I gave up trying to explain my name and became Oliver for the first time. Dad would have been proud.

Mother and Father

Perhaps here would be a good place to introduce my parents as the couple they were, rather than genealogically.

Their marriage was loving and stable. It was no hearts and flowers kind of life for them. There were few times that I saw them demonstrably affectionate. Their marriage was simply an enduring, quiet, caring. Their lives were simple. They could not afford to dream. Their dreams were wrapped in the future accomplishments of their children. Those accomplishments did not necessitate climbing mountains, being President, or curing cancer. They wanted the simple things for their children: a good marriage, healthy happy grandchildren, with food for them to eat, and a roof over their heads. I can see them now, Dad in his overalls (patches on top of patches), a faded flannel shirt and a hat, always a hat. And Mom in a faded house dress with an apron atop it, always the apron. Most often there was a dishtowel in her hand. Dad always had a claw hammer and a pair of pliers at hand. He was of the opinion that if it couldn't be fixed with those tools, it wasn't worth having.

In our family there was always all that fixing, patching, repairing, and reusing. It was a way of life that sometimes made me crazy. I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant you could afford something new. Throwing things away meant you could buy more. But at home, in our family, you salvaged, reused, patched, and "made do" with things that were never quite right for the job.

My parents' friends and family usually lived a long drive away. It took preparation to visit them. They had to get up early to get all the chores done-milking, livestock feeding, etc. This was to give them time enough time to visit before they had to start back home to take care of those eternal chores-milking, feeding, watering, gathering eggs, etc.

When Dad finally was too frail to be far from a doctor and his eyesight too poor to let him drive his old truck, I bought a house for them and moved them to the city. There was indoor plumbing, running water, and natural gas for heat and cooking. No more carrying water or chopping wood to keep them from freezing.

Dad never took to city living. He gave up being productive. He wore out several decks of cards playing solitaire, but he no longer took much interest in anything. When Dad passed at age 78 he set a genetic mark to follow. Any male heir living past 78 is living on borrowed time. At past 80, at this writing, I can only hope that my mother's age of 93 at her passing will counter that a bit.

Mother loved the city. Friends and relatives were close, and for a while she could drive to the stores and to see her friends. After a few auto accidents, the driving was no longer possible, but she never lost her sense of joie de vivre.

Toward the end when cancer was infecting her, Mother still seemed to hang on to a youthful spirit. It was when she died that my sisters and I came to the stark realization that we were truly orphans now, with no one left to really "come home to."

I think that I finally came to the final painful realization things are not forever. They get used up, wear out, go away, never to return. I had the very first introduction to that when I was three and I broke my favorite toy.

So, while we have something we love, it is best that we take care of it and try to fix it when it's broken, or try to heal it when it's ill. This is true for friends, marriages, favorite toys, old cars, and aging parents. We try to keep them because they are worth it. They are links to our past

Some things you can keep, like pictures, old love letters, and keepsakes collected from your travels. They are small objects that link us to the past and happier times and to the things that seem to make life important, like family and old friends.

Chapter Two


WHILE THE TITLE of this chapter is a play on the words: "We have ignition," there is considerable parallel here. The rocket engines start with the igniting of the fuel. Cognition is the firing of neurons in the brain, and the sparking at the synaptic junctions which bring about memory. I am yet reminded of René Descartes' statement, "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). I guess I am (do exist), because I started thinking (and remembering) pretty early.

First Memories

The first remembered sensory impulses after my synapses were functioning were not preceded by any flashes of light, color, sounds or smells. My first glimmer of memory was implanted while I was in a space vehicle of sorts. I was suspended in space anyway. I recall that I was bouncing in one of those canvas baby seats, hanging in the middle of a doorway. My recollections were (and are) of the taste and texture of the canvas-covered bar at chin height in front of me. I must have been teething, because I recall chewing on the bar and a circular ring as well. I later learned that this ring was a celluloid harness ring.

My vision seemed limited in dimension. I could see a shiny linoleum floor and legs going back and forth, but I couldn't see, or at least focus, on anything much above my eye level. Once in a while those legs would come toward me and a larger shape would come down to my level. Sometimes this visit would result in the ring being put back in my hand, sometimes it meant that I was being lifted up. I don't remember for what purpose. I guess the altitude shut off that first memory tape.

The next memory, a bit more hazy than the first, was of me crawling about the brightly colored linoleum floor on my hands and knees. There was very distinctive music being played. Years later, when I would play our old Victrola, there were certain records that would cause me to relive that specific time when I was playing on the floor. I could still visualize mymother bustling about withher chores, stopping every onceina while to wind up the record machine.

In later years, my mother would be incredulous when I told her that I had retained those memories, since I was less than eighteen months old for both of them. I certainly didn't read about them, and they were simply too mundane to be repeated in a conversation so that I could have received the experience vicariously. There were other small vignettes of memory, but none so early and none so strong.

The Dog Bite

One early experience, which should have made an indelible impression, I do not remember in the least. My father had a female German Shepherd, which had just given birth to puppies. I was only a toddler, but had made my way to the place where the puppies were. Their mother did not like my attention, so she took a large bite out of the left side of my face. The bite did not puncture my eye, but tore it out of its socket and ripped my cheek open. A family doctor put my eye back in and sewed everything back together. He allegedly remarked on how lucky I had been not to have lost my eye. I carried the scars in my eyebrow and on my cheek for over twenty years after this event.

I suppose that this incident was just too traumatic for my brain to comprehend, because I remember things both before and after the dog bite. My father was devastated by the incident. Even though I should have been minding my own business, and the dog was only protecting her puppies, my father was so angry that he destroyed both the bitch and her puppies. My mother, who related the story to me in detail several times in later years, was sorry that I had been bitten, but was totally dismayed at the retaliatory actions of my father.

I would not wish to be echoing any psycho-babble regarding the effects of the dog bite, but during my entire life I never did care very much for dogs. Nor did I truly have any pets when I was a child. We always had dogs, cats, and any number of barnyard animals on the farm, and later on the ranch. However, there was never any that I recall having thought of as mine alone, or one that I cared for over all others.

I supposed the closest I came to having a pet of my own was for a short period of time when I had a bantam rooster called Corky. He slept in the house on the back of a chair, with a newspaper spread strategically under him. With his first crowing in the morning, he was thrust outside to fend for himself until evening, when he would come to the door at the time all other chickens made their way to the chicken house. I don't recall what caused his demise, but I remember my mother helping me scratch his name on a shingle which served as his headstone when we buried him.

White Horse

I always liked the soft, furry animals: baby chickens, and ducklings, kittens and puppies. However, I never made any attachments, because they too soon were no longer soft and cuddly. From the time of my earliest memories until well into my grammar school years, my friend and companion was an imaginary one. It was a white horse. I did not have a pet name for it. Is imply called it "White Horse." I cannot now say whether it was male or female, however, in retrospect, I guess it was male.

I seldom rode White Horse. I generally ran with him or lay down with him as if he were a security blanket. When I really needed more security, I would go inside of him and be protected. I do not know how that process worked. I just know that I was able to get inside him where I felt safe and secure.

I don't know where I got the idea for this beautiful white horse as my imaginary companion. We only had big draft horses on the farm at this time. I do know that my parents were fans of Western movies. I may have picked up "White Horse" from one movie image, or a composite of many, without knowing it. This was certainly before the popularization of The Lone Ranger, with his white horse "Silver."

Grandmother's House

One image that comes to mind was my grandmother poking at me with a stick, trying to dislodge me from under her bed. It was much later that I learned that I had been placed in my maternal grandmother's care while my mother was in the hospital for the birth of my brother. I was only three at the time. I wanted to get away from everyone and could not understand why my mother was not around. My grandmother gave up in disgust with my actions and decided that I would come out when I got hungry. When I finally decided that White Horse would not solve this problem, I crawled out after an hour or two under the bed.


Excerpted from EIGHT DECADES (and more) by Oliver R. Bishop Copyright © 2012 by Oliver R. Bishop. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Part I: A Life is Launched....................1
1 Countdown....................3
2 I Have Cognition....................9
3 Lift off....................17
4 I Achieve Orbit....................59
5 Reentry....................75
Part II: Military Life: The Early Years....................77
6 Counting the Days....................79
7 Permanent Party....................89
8 Sampson AFB....................95
9 F.E. Warren AFB....................103
Part III: Military Life: The Middle Years....................109
10 Officer Candidate School....................111
11 Personnel Officer School....................117
12 Shipping Out....................121
13 Tsuiki AFB....................125
14 Brady AFB....................135
15 F.E. Warren Revisted....................143
Part IV: Twin Threads....................149
16 Fuyo Joins Me....................151
17 USC....................155
18 Griffiss AFB....................157
19 Land of the Morning Calm....................161
20 Ellsworth AFB....................165
Part V: The Cold Cruel World....................173
21 Slater, Missouri....................175
22 Highland, Illinois....................177
23 Napoleon, Ohio....................179
24 Westmont, Illinois....................183
25 DCCA....................187
26 Retirement....................191

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